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This Is What's Left At Marks & Spencer
By Mar 9, 2017 Shopping
After about 9 years as a reliable fallback option for foreigners in search of British comfort food, plastic work shirts and decent underwear, M&S is shutting down on April 1st. Odd choice, that. To clear the shelves before then, they've got 50% off everything. I popped down to two locations after work to see what's left. Baked beans and booze, basically.


Just a whole bunch of baked beans and booze left at the Nanjing Xi Lu location.

The market wasn't ready for wine in bags.

There was also a fair bit of ice-cream and ready-made meal packs getting dangerously close to their expiry date left in the fridge. Baked goods? Mostly gone. Sauces and preserves? Mostly gone. Pasta? Just gone. But plenty of baked beans left and most of the wine was still there. People were queueing up with bags of whatever they could grab, and then leaving 2 to 3 bottles of wine at the counter to make space for stuff they actually wanted. There were entire unopened pallets of wine sitting where the cafe used to be.

As for clothing, the women's section was disappearing fast, children's a little less so, but the men's section was pretty much untouched. Maybe that talk about how M&S apparel sales were nosediving because they didn't stock local-friendly sizes or styles was true. I saw a couple of uncles walking around half-heartedly picking at the offerings, while their wives raided the ground floor.

I went to check the Huaihai Lu location too. Same thing. Whole bunch of wine and men's clothes left. Surprisingly, there was quite a bit of pasta there too, though not anymore. Every man for himself, Shanghai, I got there first.

M&S opened its first store in Shanghai in October, 2008. It was mobbed on opening day and the company's executive chairman said it showed "that our brand can translate [overseas]." Analysts suggested that "it shouldn't lose any money." By 2015, they had 15 shops in Shanghai, despite being dogged by supply chain problems. On April 1st, 2017, the last of M&S's 10 mainland stores will officially close, unless they're picked clean beforehand. Or this could all be an elaborate, multi-billion dollar prank. Probably not.

The chain's been in trouble for years due to run-of-the-mill things like poor branding, high prices and those supply chain problems that never went away. The new chief executive Steve Rowe pledged to refocus on the 50-something women's demographic and expand their food and homeware offerings. Part of that involves cutting loss-making shops overseas, including China. Incidentally, the same analyst that said they wouldn't lose any money later said they'd "gotten everything wrong in China." The chain's recently seen a bit of an up-tick in share prices, but ain't nothing turning back the clock on M&S in China.

Hats off to the staff still working the tills of a dying giant. As they feverishly packed bags, they were laughing about how they didn't have a supervisor anymore. When I put a box of cookies on the wrong shelf, a store clerk almost reflexively went to put it back, before stopping himself and walking a way like "what's the point."

I accosted some of the laowai hauling bags out the door at the Huaihai Lu location and asked them what they'd miss most. One guy who's been here three years said shoes in his size and baby clothes for his kid. Another said he'd miss good underwear. A couple of ladies I asked mentioned underthings too, especially tights and leggings in non-ridiculous colors.

One woman hauling a bag full of "pretty much just wine," looked me straight in the eye and said "I think you know the answer."

The shops are still open daily until 10pm, although I did see shoppers getting turned away around 8pm because "customers tai duo." The good food'll probably be completely gone by tomorrow so get in while you still can. Except wine, plenty of that left. For men's clothes, maybe wait a week and see if they drop it to 75% off. Maybe get yourself some hipster underwear at the price M&S should've been selling them at all along.

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  • 1 year ago Unverified User

    you forgot to mention the ultra high levels of ass-gouging rent that foreign companies are sweated into paying. Crunch the numbers, do the math if the margins not there, it never will be. Chinese are not going to magically buy more to make up the diff.

  • 1 year ago handoogies

    It was all just shit merch to begin with. Kinda racist to assume Chinese folks can't distinguish good stuff from the rubbish. Uniqlo meanwhile tossing salads despite being jap.

  • 1 year ago Unverified User

    Maybe start thinking about all the poor staff who will be out of a job rather than how many tins of baked beans are left?

  • 1 year ago Unverified User

    The staff who'll lose their jobs? Really....newbie alert!! They'll get jobs before the empty venue gets a film of dust.

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